While most true Bucs fans aren't happy to see former Buccaneers great Warren Sapp file for bankruptcy recently, there is a segment of those who have seemed to relish in the perceived squandering of Sapp's $60 million in career earnings. In this PR REACTS feature Mark Cook shares his thoughts on the subject.
Reports last week came out that former Buccaneers great and future Hall of Famer Warren Sapp had recently filed for bankruptcy despite earning approximately $60 million dollars during his NFL playing career.
Sapp recently spoke to the Tampa Bay Times about how it all came crashing down.Source: Gary Shelton Tampa Bay TimesDespite his financial problems, despite the headlines about bankruptcy filing, despite all the jokes about 240 pairs of sneakers and a large painting of a naked woman in his bedroom, Sapp still sounded positive Thursday as he attempted to explain his troubles in detail for the first time
"Do you think I wanted to declare bankruptcy?'' Sapp said. "Do you think if there was any other way possible I would have done it? It was either this or go to jail. Those were my choices.''
In the days since Sapp, 39, filed for bankruptcy with $6.7 million worth of debt, he has once again become a polarizing figure in Tampa Bay. Sapp was a great player as the Bucs turned from one of the worst franchises in the NFL to one of the best, but a lot of people seem to remember a lot of stories about how rude he could be in public.
The trouble started, he said, with the wrong construction deal at the wrong time. By the time it went bad, most of Sapp's money was gone.
The idea was to build low-income housing in Fort Pierce in 2005. Sapp said the original agreement was the houses would not be built until a buyer had been approved for a mortgage, but one of his partners approved the construction of three houses so there would be something to market. But 2005 was not a good time for real estate, and the houses went unsold.
"It didn't go well,'' said Sapp, who has a condo in Hollywood, Fla. "At the end of the day, we owed them a million dollars, and the two numb- - - - put their heads in the sand. They went after me.''
Because of the debt, Sapp's earnings from the NFL Network — 100 percent, he said — were garnished for 11 months. That meant his bills went unpaid, causing the debt spiral that led to his Chapter 7 filing.
"You tell me what to do,'' Sapp said. "Do you keep working without a check? If you don't pay your child support, you go to jail. This wasn't something I wanted to do. This was something I had to do.''
Despite the debt, despite the criticism, Sapp said he is positive.
"This is just another situation I have to get myself out of,'' he said. "I grew up without cable and without air conditioning. Things aren't that bad yet
"This isn't as tough a situation as when I came out of college, and there were reports of seven positive drug tests, and I was a 21-year-old man. I was coming to the worst franchise in pro football, and Sam Wyche was running a five-ring circus, and my teammates were calling me 'super-rook' because they didn't want me here. You stick a diamond in a pile of s- - - and it's still a diamond.
"If there is air in my lungs, I'll find a way.''PR REACTS – Cook’s Take:
While PewterReport.com debated on whether to report on this topic at all – as it gets away from football – the fact is, it has dominated talk radio and television news both locally and nationally, and with Sapp recently publicly addressing his issues, here is my take on the situation.
First of all let’s be frank – Sapp was no joy cover in the locker room. Despite his happy go-lucky persona we see on the NFL Network and on Inside the NFL, Sapp was one of the toughest guys we have ever interviewed. When I wrote for Pewter Report (formerly Buccaneer Magazine) back in the mid to late 90’s, we always flipped a coin to see who the “lucky” one was who got the honor to stand in front of Sapp’s locker holding the microphone.
Sitting in a chair, with a towel draped across on the carpet in front of him where he spit his snuff, Sapp was as an intimidating figure in the locker room as he was when he lined up for three hours each Sunday afternoon. At times, Sapp was gregarious, funny, and a big teddy bear. But all it took was one question he didn’t like and he would undress a reporter in a matter of minutes. Flushed with embarrassment in most cases, the reporter would stumble and fumble with his words, as Sapp appeared to silently revel in the reporter’s reddening cheeks.
With that said, should fans, critics, or even those who took Sapp’s abuse in the media rejoice in another’s misery? Apparently from the comments on many internet boards or in the phone calls to sports radio talk shows, many have taken that route, which is unfortunate.
While Sapp will never be confused with the likable personalities of former Bucs Derrick Brooks, Warrick Dunn or Mike Alstott, his on the field play, work ethic or commitment to the teams he played for has never been questioned. Perhaps the Buccaneers are still searching for that first Lombardi Trophy without Sapp. In fact arguably he was just as, or maybe even more important, in the turnaround of a terrible franchise than any other Buccaneers player – even those who were much more media and community friendly.
Sapp’s road from rags to riches, and now back to rags is a sad tale seen much to often in professional sports. Any of use would gladly take just a couple of Sapp’s millions and feel we could live comfortably for the rest of our lives. And many of us could. But obviously there is an issue in professional sports where somewhere along the way the message to prepare for the future has been lost.
Sports agent Russell Hicks spoke to PewterReport.com this week about the problem and says many agents preach the message from the time they first meet their client until the player retires. Some get the message, while others do not.
“I wish I could say yes it will get better but I’m not sure,” Hicks said. “We really spend a lot of time working with our clients explaining the pitfalls that come up and how to try and avoid them but some players just don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to hear the stats of the percentage of players who end up broke; they don’t want to hear about saving money and preparing for the future.
“One of the big thing we try to do is get our guys to make sure they graduate. Even if they are in the NFL currently, we try and get them to finish their education. I tell them you can’t even coach a high school football team without a college degree these days. So even if the money dries up and you didn’t do a good job of planning for the future, at least you have your education to fall back on.
“But there are some guys who are starting to see it, Hicks went on to explain. “As bad as it is for Warren or Terrell (Owens) to go through it, maybe it will get the attention of the young players in the league. But I can’t say for sure. My Dad was not an educated man at all, but was very smart. And he used to say all the time, ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.’ I think about that often when I hear about these things.”
Of course the serious sports fans can name many athletes who have gone broke shortly after their playing careers were over. Mike Tyson, Marion Jones, Evander Holyfield, and Lawrence Taylor are just a few names that have been in the news the last few years that were hampered with money woes. But when taking a look at this story a few other names popped up, other than professional athletes, who have filed bankruptcy.
Entrepreneur Donald Trump has filed for bankruptcy not once, not twice but four times in his life. Like a cat with nine lives Trump escapes and seems to come back stronger.
Automaker Henry Ford filed for bankruptcy in 1901 before finally getting his business model correct. Today no one questions Ford’s integrity.
Walt Disney started a company named Laugh-O-Gram in 1920 to produce his first animated fairy tales. His financial backers soon were unable to cover expenses and Disney scraped just enough money together to take a bus to California. Today, Disney is worth an estimated $80 billion dollars.
And one name that really came as a surprise was U.S. President Abraham Lincoln who was forced into bankruptcy in 1833, due to a poorly performing business and a mountain of debts. Lincoln lost his last two possessions, his home and some surveying equipment, and spent the next 17 years paying back the rest of the money to all the friends who had lent him funds to start his business.
I’m certainly not comparing Sapp to Trump, Ford, or Lincoln, instead just pointing out that financial failure can happen to anyone. While Sapp certainly made some poor decisions it appears his bad investments combined with the housing market failure contributed significantly to his problems today. Did he live above his means? More than likely. Could he have done some things differently to prevent ending up in this mess? Without a doubt. Sapp screwed up, he made bad business decisions, probably ignored advice from professional financial planners and thought, "that can't happen to me." But it did. But that doesn't mean he isn't human and deserving of a second chance.
But before we gloat in a man’s failure, remember the things he brought to the NFL, and specifically to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While you didn’t have to like Sapp as a person during his playing days, or since retirement, any true Bucs’ fan had to love him for those three hours in the trenches every Sunday. And as the old saying goes, "before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes". We all have regrets in the choices we have made in life, but fortunately not many involve $60 million dollars or are broadcast on the national stage.
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